in Old Man's Love

Chapter 23 – Again at Croker’s Hall


Trollope uses tantalised to denote Mr. Whittlestaff’s affect on Mary as he prepares to release her from her betrothal to him so that she can marry John Gordon. The English verb recalls the underworld punishment of the Greek mythological figure Tantalus, who forever reaches for fruit that he cannot grasp and bends down for water that he cannot drink. The connection to Tantalus underscores Mary’s suffering as well as Mr. Whittlestaff’s power. [RR 2018]


hymeneal altar

Mr. Blake explains that he went to London to procure “a new black suit, fit for the hymeneal altar.” This description of the wedding altar in terms of Hymen, the Greek god of marriage, is in accord with Mr. Blake’s other Classical turns of phrase. [RR 2018]


Mr. Blake’s patron

Mr. Hall is called Mr. Blake’s “patron,” echoing the Roman social institution of patron/client relationships in which Romans of higher and lower status were bound together by ties of mutual obligation and support. Here Mr. Blake somewhat presumptuously takes it upon himself to offer his patron’s hospitality to Mr. Whittlestaff. [RR 2018]


just a few books to read

Mr. Whittlestaff has in some sense come to this place in his life, and without Mary as a wife, in dialogue with his books, not so much directed by these writers as in active conversation with them. When he lost Catherine Bailey he filled his heart with books; if now he needs “just a few books to read,” perhaps his needs for comfort and instruction and dialogue with books is simpler, and he is a peace. The prospect of a place in Italy (however idle the thought), with a few books to read, is not so bleak, we might note, as he believed life would be without Mary. [CMS 2018]


the fates seem to have decided

See the note on fate in the Chapter 1 commentary.